Flying from Perth to Phuket on Air Asia
This is a review of our flights on Air Asia, but also an Uber testimonial and what to do in Kuala Lumpur International Terminal 2 when you have a long transit.
For a long time, we tried to “do the right thing” and support the local taxi drivers, but after our last experience with them, we decided to give Uber a try. What happened was that on our previous trip to the airport, we called up for a taxi; they asked if we were ready to go immediately, and we said yes. We waited out front for half an hour … no taxi. We called them up again; they checked and said, “oh, it says here your taxi is booked for tomorrow”. Not impressed. Sure, stuff ups happen, but when you’re trying to catch a flight you’re less forgiving.
The second and third incentives to try out Uber: Qantas dangled bonus frequent flyer points and a hefty discount from Uber off our first booking. This meant our Uber trip cost us $11.47 (a taxi would’ve cost $40-$50) and we got 2011 Qantas points (2000 bonus plus 1 point per dollar spent).
We pre-booked our Uber pick-up time for 4am. Our Uber was exactly on time. Our driver was very nice, offered us water, and followed the road rules. The car was spotless and odourless. Two thumbs up for our first Uber experience. We are Uber converts.
Get your first Uber ride for free (conditions apply) using this code: cathye655ue.
CHECK-IN AT PERTH AIRPORT TERMINAL 1
We arrived at the airport at too-early-o’clock and there was hardly anyone in the queue. We were travelling with carry-ons only. I read many online forums beforehand in attempt to determine how strict Air Asia are with their 7 kgs only rule for the combined weight of your carry-on and personal item (like a hand bag or laptop bag, etc.). Yes, our carry-ons were weighed, but only our carry-ons. I avoided having to shift the contents of my handbag into my pockets to get the total weight down.
Going through immigration and security was super quick. No more departure cards to fill out. E-gates scan your passport and take your photo. No physical exit stamp from a surly immigration officer anymore (non-ePassport holders and families with babies still have to go through the manual check-out process though; click here for further details). The security screening area is spacious and moves quickly (and the staff are really pleasant, which helps).
We pre-booked breakfast on the plane, so we decided to just have coffees while waiting for boarding. It appeared to be the order taker’s first day on the job. She was a bit dyslexic with our order (the small long black and the large mocha arrived as a large long black and small mocha), but we didn’t complain; it looked like she was having a hard enough morning to deal with.
AIR ASIA – PERTH TO KUALA LUMPUR
Our flight boarded on time. It was a very full flight. I tried to do a sneaky and book a window seat and aisle seat, hoping the middle seat would be left vacant, but some poor soul was in the middle seat. When I told told him he could move to the window or aisle, he happily chose the aisle seat.
Pre-booked meals were quickly distributed shortly after reaching cruising altitude. I had ordered the nasi lemak. Although not the best nasi lemak I’ve ever had, it was tasty all the same and cheap (around 5 AUD for the meal and drink).
Being a budget airline, there was no in-flight entertainment unless you hire a pre-loaded tablet (RM49 pre-paid or RM60 onboard). After getting up at 3am for this flight, napping was all I was interested in doing anyways. Also, BYO blanket or warm top; otherwise comfort kits (containing a blanket, pillow and eye mask) are available for purchase.
The flight was relatively painless and the crew were nice and efficient. We pre-booked our seats in The Quiet Zone (no kids under 10) and it was quiet. The Quiet Zone also gets fed and watered first (after the Premium Economy class).
Here is a time-lapsed video I took while landing:
From our arrival gate, we had a long walk back to the transit entrance to enter the terminal via a security screening checkpoint. At no time did they check ID or onward boarding passes, so anyone could re-enter the terminal.
IN TRANSIT AT KUALA LUMPUR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT TERMINAL 2 (KLIA2)
We had a six hour stopover. We could’ve gone through immigration and entered the country, taken the express train into town and had a meal or a quick look around, but since we were stopping over in KL on the way back to Australia, we decided to stay in the airport. There’s also an option to enter the country and then take a free shuttle bus to a nearby factory outlet mall. With our carry-on bags already at maximum, there was no point shopping.
We managed to make the most of our time in transit. The first stop was lunch. It was lunchtime and a long time since our nasi lemak. We headed up to Level 3 to the Food Court and to The Chicken Rice Shop. We both ordered a chicken rice set. The set included chicken, rice, broth, two fried dumpling things, bean sprouts and a soy milk. Very tasty and pretty cheap.
Next we went back down to Level 2 to The Living Room for average coffee at western prices. A strange thing about taking the lift from Level 3 to Level 2: the airport has little carts available to carry your carry-on bags, but these carts aren’t allowed to go down in the lift, and there’s a cart nazi beside the lift at Level 3. There are new carts to collect near the lift at Level 2, but it would appear that carts can go up in the lift (no Level 2 cart nazi).
There was a lot of renovations going on at the airport when we were there, so hopefully there will be new shops / restaurants on offer soon.
The rest of the time we went to the movie viewing area. In a corner of the airport, just before Pier P, there’s a room with seats and two largish flatscreen TVs showing Fox movies. The volume is turned way down, so you end up missing a lot of the movie, but it’s still free entertainment, or a good place to doze while charging mobile phones (which is what most everyone else there was doing). One thing you’ll notice while on a long stopover is that there are constant boarding announcements. Every announcement is announced in both Bahasa Malay and English, and every announcement ended with “thank you, happy journey” (TIP: we found out on our return journey that you can’t hear these announcements in the Air Asia lounge).
Mid-movie marathon, I decided to grab a very expensive grande tea from Starbucks. There was another customer there arguing with the staff about how there wasn’t any milk in his espresso.
Two movies later, it was time for our connecting flight to Phuket. After handing our cart back to another cart nazi at the entrance to Pier P, we went through security (again), and made our way to our gate.
AIR ASIA – KUALA LUMPUR TO PHUKET
This flight was late. Departure time came and went and still no plane. The airline kept shifting our departure time until the plane finally arrived. We probably departed an hour late.
Air Asia handle the masses quite well by boarding by zone and having a queue for each zone.
On this flight my ploy worked: window and aisle seat booked with no one in between, but it wasn’t a very full flight. The flight was short, but the flight attendants still managed to distribute the pre-booked meals and sell snacks and drinks very expediently.
ARRIVING AT PHUKET INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
The plane was parked on the fringe of the airport grounds and we were bussed to the terminal. There are many Money Changers trying to get your business before you reach immigration. They mention that their rates are the same as after immigration and the rest of the airport. They aren’t fibbing (I checked), but the rate isn’t as good as in the rest of Phuket, so only change a small amount at the airport if you have to.
At some stage, we should’ve been handed arrival cards, but it didn’t happen. We had to ask for cards, and the staff member asked was suspicious as to why we didn’t have them. Like we’re going to sell them on the black market or something?
The queues for foreign passports was relatively short as was the queue for customs (all big bags get x-rayed).
Once we were out of the terminal, we looked around for the Meter Taxi booth. I knew where it was in the old International Terminal, but we couldn’t find it at the new terminal, and ended up getting a limo taxi (600 Baht to Mai Khao). The limo taxi was a very nice car with excellent air-conditioning, accompanied by a driver with a very aggressive driving style. He got us to Mai Khao in record time, but had to stop a few times in Mai Khao to ask where our resort was (with three Marriot properties beside each other, it is a bit confusing … best to ask for the JW Marriot when you’re trying to get to Marriot’s Phuket Beach Club to avoid confusion … the two properties share the same reception area).
Our stay at Marriot’s Phuket Beach Club will be described in my next blog entry.